Just last year, 75,000 patients died from healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control. These infections are ones that are contracted after patients have been admitted. A large potion of times, the cause for these infections is unwashed hands.
Wired notes studies that show an average of hospital workers wash their hands between 10 and 50 percent of the time when they enter or exit patient rooms. This number, however, is supposed to be 100 percent.
“The problem is invisible,” said Brent Nibarger, chief client officer at Biovigil Hygiene Technologies. “The bacteria and things that get transported, you can’t see it. We often say if the bugs glowed orange or green or yellow you could solve this more powerfully.”
Biovigil has released a product to remind doctors to wash their hands. It is an electronic badge equipped with sensors that uses traffic-light colors (red, yellow, green) to communicate with users.
The system also has infrared sensors that are installed in patient rooms. The badge gets clipped to hospital workers' pockets to detect when they are walking in and out of patient rooms. After they have used hand sanitizer or washed their hands with soap and water, they hold a hand near the badge. The device then uses chemical sensors to detect if hands are clean. If so, it will alert users with a green light. The light turns yellow when the process is ignored and turns red when it is being ignored.
“A five-year-old can understand it, and a 90-year-old patient understands it. Everyone understands traffic light simplicity,” Nibarger said. “Once you wear this on your chest and have your first patient interaction it instantly changes the accountability and behavior, because no one is going to be running around with a red badge, except in rare circumstances.”
The Biovigil's badges float between hospital workers as shifts change. Staff members simply have to plug in a modified key encoded with their personalized ID numbers to activate it. When on it's charging dock, the device downloads information collected, such as a log of hand-washing and when workers visited particular patient rooms. This information can help hospitals learn about patient interactions between different sifts, if certain patients receive more care, and the average time doctors and nurses interact with patients.
Biovigil costs, on average, $2 to $3 per room per day. A blanket fee will include installations, hardware supplies and training.